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There are benefits of deliberately taking a break at the end of your racing season or main event. Look to the fulltime athletes – they always take some time off at the end of the season or after their main race. Recovery, mental as well as physical, is an incredibly important and often overlooked part of running. To get the best out of your training it is key to schedule some quality rest into your training plan. In the long term your overall fitness and running will benefit, and your susceptibility to injury should lessen as well.
Sometimes something unexpected can get in the way of our running, leading us to have a short or long break from it. We may have sustained an injury which needs time to heal. We may have had a major event occur in our lives – for example a new job or a new house – which can divert our time and energies for a while. We may have suffered an emotional trauma which leaves our energies depleted while we recover. These are just some reasons why we may at some point realise that we have not run for a long while.
This is, of course, totally individual and depends what event you have done and how far it was, but one formula often used is: for every mile you have raced, take a day off. If you have never tried to take a complete break as you are worried about losing fitness, try it. Yes, some fitness will go away, but the overall benefits will far outweigh that.
It is very common for an injured runner to become impatient and irritable, but, as frustrating as an injury setback can be, it can make you a better runner in the long term.
It's very easy to fall into the “I can't do this, I can't do that” routine. Try to focus on what you can do. If you are able to cross train / swim / cycle then do it. Not only will this maintain your cardiovascular fitness, but you will feel better for it. It's also important to use this to be able to put your life into perspective. Although not being able to run may seem like the end of the world, there are worse people off in the world. As easy as it's said than done, try not to dwell too much.
During your time off read an inspiring book or article, watch YouTube videos of comebacks that have happened. This will remind you that you are not alone in the world of injuries and that eventually you will be fighting fit again!
This can really help you psychologically. Not so much as a “Dear diary” journal but more something to vent to when you're feeling down. If you ever feel angry or frustrated just write down your emotions, it doesn't have to make sense and you don't necessarily have to read it back, use it as a coping method. It works, I tried it myself!
It is normal for you to eat large quantities when you are exercising regularly, but when that stops you may find you will gain a few extra pounds. This doesn't mean you have to cut down drastically what you are eating as the body needs the nutrition to repair itself. But it is worth reducing the intake of highly processed foods. This will help you stay as lean as possible which will help with self-confidence. Any few extra pounds will come off rather quickly when you start running again.
Use the time that you would normally take running to try something different. There may be something that you've always wanted to try but have never had the chance to. I myself am currently using my time off to catch up with friends, with the rest of my time being spent either reading books I've never had the chance to read or completing an online course that I signed up to. The world really is your oyster!
Your time off from running is a perfect opportunity to work on your weaknesses – whether that be your mobility, core strength or upper body. This could be a good time to try focussing on strength or cross training. Work on the areas that are often neglected from your running, so when you do return you will find yourself to be a stronger runner.
These can either be long or short term goals, but just make sure they are realistic to avoid disappointment or over-training! Choose a goal that will focus and motivate you to come back stronger. It could even be a weekly goal for you to see your own progress build. Best to keep a diary of this progress.
You may have had to pull out of a race that you had planned, which can be disappointing. Try to take each day as it comes and try to avoid thinking about how you should be running a race in the future or your how your plans have now changed. As important as it is to set goals for the future, it's impossible to give your body a deadline for when you will be ready to run again, so don't rush it.
It's also important to remember that the older you get, the longer it takes for your body to heal, So if a recurring injury took 4 weeks to heal before, it doesn't mean it will take the same amount the next time. By not setting deadlines on your recovery you will feel less agitated and frustrated, and will avoid running before you're ready.
As frustrating as it is to not run, just remember that not only will you learn more about your body but you will also become more appreciative when you do finally put on your running shoes again!
“So let us not worry about the future. Let us only do the right thing today, at this moment, here and now. Try to aspire now, today, and let the future take care of itself.”
— Sri Chinmoy
At some point we may sense the urge to start up again, once our life has settled back down, or once we have recovered from a physical or emotional trauma. We can start to get an “itch” to don our running shoes and head out of the door. After a prolonged break from running here are a few things to help ensure you continue, happily and healthily:
As you wouldn't suddenly increase your mileage from 10K to half marathon or from half marathon to full marathon, don't go straight out and run too far and too hard too soon. Test the water. Perhaps use a beginner's training programme to build up slowly and steadily.
Strength training can complement your running, ensuring your body is able to meet the running demands made of it. Lift some light weights, do some press-ups, do some pilates exercises. Cross-training can help your all-round fitness and can make your training fun. Consider joining a gym, swim, cycle, play a team sport such as tennis or badminton. If you keep your training fun you are more likely to stick to it.
Make sure you stretch and flex your muscles. If you start running again and don't incorporate stretching into your routine you may find that your muscles become extremely tight and then prone to injury.
If you have never had your running gait assessed or have not had it assessed since before your break from running, it is a good idea to have a reassessment to make sure your running shoes will be suitable. Running gait can change over time, e.g. with a change in weight, after giving birth. Both cushioning and support can be affected over time, even when the shoes are not in use.
Check your running wardrobe to see if your clothing is still fit for purpose. Have you got appropriate clothing for the weather, be it rainy, sunny, snowy? Ladies, please check your sports bras and make sure they are still effective, or buy new. It is essential to have proper support.
Don't forget to ensure you are properly hydrated, before, during and after running. Proper hydration is essential to your health and can make a world of difference to your performance. Use electrolyte powders or tablets in hot weather to make sure your body absorbs enough of the water you take in. In hot weather don't forget a cap to protect your head.
In order to sustain your running after getting back to it, try to keep inspired in different ways. One of the best ways is to run with a friend sometimes. You could consider joining a local running club. You could sign up for a 5K, perhaps your local Park Run. When you've done that, sign up for another one or for a 10K, but make sure you build up your training gradually.
Enjoy your running again and reap all the rewards – inner and outer – it can give you.
These are tips that we've found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not certified instructors. Always consult your specialist before beginning any exercise programme. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
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